Academic Honesty

This article in the Mercury News has sparked national debate on the ethics lessons this issue passes on. I think this is an example of how our education system is broken. No longer do we go to school to learn; instead we go to school to get ahead. The focus is on testing instead of learning, of adding the right activities to your resume instead of following your interests. I don’t know what it would take to “fix” what is broken about the system, but enforcing policies for disciplining those guilty of cheating is at least a step in the right direction.

The legal action of the parent in question teaches students that it is ok to cheat. Allowing students to cheat without consequence teaches them to cheat, but not how to get ahead. In the years after school, after college, you can’t cheat any more. Potential employers check up on your resumes, they ask for copies of your diplomas and certificates. If you lie, cheat, or otherwise do poorly, you will have a very hard time getting or keeping a job. If instead you concentrate on learning and doing the things you find interesting, you will find yourself much better equipped to find a place in the real world. You will be able to truthfully state your educational background, you will posses the skills to back up your degree. Perhaps most importantly, you will be a decent human being; you will be happy with yourself.

The incident described above took place at a high school. I didn’t go to highschool, but I know academic honesty is a widespread problem: I saw a girl cheating when I took the SAT. This problem doesn’t stop with admission to a college, either. It continues, as the thousands of instances of cheating I witnessed as an undergrad can attest. Students text each other answers, look up facts on Wikipedia during tests, and sneak notes in without a thought of the consequences their actions have. Disciplining people who cheat is a step in the right direction because it points out that ultimately, if you cheat on an exam, the only person you’re really cheating is yourself.

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